Downsizing in DC: E-Waste and Textile Recovery

Carter Ross

No matter how well loved it is, sometimes there isn’t a second life for old clothing or household items. Non-working or out of date electronics, worn or stained clothing, broken furniture and other items, unfortunately, may not be accepted by charities. In these instances, the District’s Zero Waste DC website can help.

The site outlines what can be recycled as part of your weekly recycling pickup, what can be disposed of as regular trash, and what must be disposed of in another manner.

For example, old electronics can leach dangerous materials into the environment if they are landfilled. They also may contain valuable metals that can be reclaimed. In the District, many old electronics can be recycled at city eCYCLE events. But they also can be dropped off at the Benning Road Transfer Station every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you are disposing of items like old phones or computers that likely contain personal information, it is a good idea to factory reset or otherwise wipe data from the device before it is disposed of. In some cases, you may wish to remove computer hard drives and drill through them to ensure the data is not recoverable.

Other materials that cannot be simply thrown away include batteries, old cans of paint and house chemicals, and fluorescent bulbs, including compact fluorescents. All these materials are accepted at the Fort Totten Transfer Station* every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Material dropped off at the city’s transfer stations must come from residential addresses in the District. Commercial materials will not be accepted, and proof of District residency must be provided. There are additional rules and limitations.

Clothing that is torn, stained, or otherwise not suitable for donation, along with other textiles, may be able to be repurposed through a store. H+M has a close the loop program where you drop off old clothing for recycling and get a store coupon in return. Anthropologie and American Eagle have similar programs for recycling denim fabric. The online retailer For Days has a take back bag program. It costs $20 to get a bag you can fill with old fabrics, but you get a $20 credit on future purchases once it’s returned. The District’s ReThread DC program has additional ideas about how to keep old textiles out of the waste stream.

While not hazardous, you may still want to be careful about how you dispose of old records. Some records should be retained permanently, but many can be disposed of after a few years. Colorado State University has an extensive guide to retaining personal documents, and the IRS also provides guidelines for retaining tax records. The best way to dispose of documents that have personal or financial information on them is through shredding. DC residents can have up to five medium-size boxes of personal documents shredded for free at the Fort Totten Transfer Station* on the first Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Full members who need help with shredding personal documents or responsibly disposing of unwanted items can call the office for volunteer help at 202-935-6060 or

*NOTE: From April to June 2023, the Fort Totten Transfer Station is closed to drop offs; documents for shredding will be accepted at the Benning Road Transfer Station.

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